I need to clarify several points in New Times’ version of what happened in January of last year when several crucial clauses pertaining to a potential $5 million sale of county land in the Oceano Dunes somehow went AWOL from a county planning staff report (“Dune protection goes missing,” May 22).
The Planning Commission staff report, which is intended to inform the planning commissioners (and the public) in making their determination on the proposed sale, was an ostensible verbatim reprinting of applicable planning standards from our Local Coastal Plan (LCP). Two sentences, not one, were excised from the most relevant policy. Both sentences referenced the map in the LCP, which depicts the county land in the Dunes as a buffer area—no vehicles allowed. References to the map of the buffer area appear only in those two sentences. No other relevant text from the LCP was missing from the staff report.
These were not “omissions” or, per County Public Information Director Matt Janssen, an “anomaly.” This was surgery. It abetted the silence of the report and planning staff on the existence of the buffer map and its glaringly obvious land-use conflict. Clearly, if this policy were implemented, the state OHV Division would have no interest in buying the land, which the county very much wants to sell. Had not the Sierra Club and I made the existence of the buffer map known to the Planning Commission, the deal would have been certified as in conformity with the General Plan at that January 2007 meeting and could have been completed shortly thereafter.
I have no reason to believe that Matt Janssen would have had anything to gain by taking it upon himself to cut these references out of the staff report and thereby grease the rails for the sale of the property. Mr. Janssen was likely only the reviewer of that report, and probably missed the subtle edits. We only spotted them a year later. Nor are we accusing the author(s) of the report, who likewise would have nothing to gain—and their jobs to lose—by doing such a thing.
One thing is clear: Someone did it, because it happened. Staff reports pass through many hands on their way to commissioners’ packets. And when a $5 million deal is in the offing, there are indeed individuals involved who do have something to gain from the suppression of inconvenient facts. New Times might want to look into that.
-- Babak Naficy - attorney